Miscarriage, or pregnancy loss, is classified as a pregnancy that ends before 20 weeks. It is more common than many people think, occurring in about 8–20 percent of clinically recognized first-time pregnancies.
Pregnancy loss after this time is rare. Losses in the second trimester, between 13 and 19 weeks, occur in just 1–5 percent of pregnancies.
Some women want to understand the process of a pregnancy loss so that they can take time out from daily life and reach out for emotional support. Other people might want information to help a loved one who is experiencing a pregnancy loss.
How long does a miscarriage last?
If you experience a miscarriage before realizing you’re pregnant, you may think the bleeding and cramping are due to your menstrual cycle. So, some women have miscarriages and never realize it.
The length of a miscarriage differs for every woman, and it depends on different factors, including:
- how far along you are in the pregnancy
- whether you were carrying multiples
- how long it takes your body to expel the fetal tissue and placenta
A woman early in her pregnancy may have a miscarriage and only experience bleeding and cramping for a few hours. But another woman may have miscarriage bleeding for up to a week.
The bleeding can be heavy with clots, but it slowly tapers off over days before stopping, usually within two weeks.
Symptoms of a miscarriage
A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a fetus. Most miscarriages take place before week 12 of pregnancy.
Symptoms of a miscarriage may include:
- vaginal spotting or bleeding
- abdominal or pelvic pain
- cramping in the lower back
- fluid or discharge from the vagina
How to prevent pregnancy loss
Most pregnancy losses are not preventable. Genetic abnormalities in the developing fetus are the most common reason for a miscarriage.
In miscarriages that occur before 10 weeks of pregnancy, genetic problems may account for as many as 80 percent of miscarriages.
To reduce the risk of miscarriage:
- Treat any underlying medical conditions. Uncontrolled diseases, such as diabetes and thyroid disorders, can cause pregnancy loss.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, and prescription medications marked as unsafe for pregnancy. Drugs can increase the risk of genetic changes in the fetus that can lead to complications or pregnancy loss.
- Take prenatal vitamins and maintain a healthful, balanced diet.
- Seek care from a doctor or midwife early in pregnancy. Good prenatal care can detect and treat some conditions that increase the risk of miscarriage.
A pregnancy loss can be a difficult and emotional time. Many women and their partners feel bereft and overwhelmed and may go through a process of grieving.
It is a good idea to talk with a doctor about the reason for the loss of the pregnancy and for reassurance about the safety of trying again.
While it is relatively common for a woman to have multiple miscarriages in her lifetime, those who experience multiple losses in a row should speak to a doctor. Multiple pregnancy losses may indicate an underlying that requires treatment.
In most cases, people who choose to try again will go on to have a healthy pregnancy.